If your firm is investing in formal training, but not seeing any improvements, you’re missing a key aspect of staff development. As a leadership coach of 10 years, I have worked with over 400 firms to help improve their training approach.

When training isn’t working as it should, it usually comes down to one thing – you aren’t giving your team the learning they need in the way they will best absorb it. Even if the formal training is engaging and exactly what your team need, it’s usually only capitalising on 10% of the process.

There are three key components to any training or development process. However, firms have often focused on just one. In this article, I will introduce you to the three key steps to developing a practical and successful training program.

The three steps – 70:20:10

In a nutshell, an effective training experience involves three components:

  • 70% of learning will be based on hands-on experience
  • 20% will come through learning from others.
  • 10% will come from formal training.

70% – Hands-on experience

Humans learn best by doing. It’s part of our natural instinct. We watch, we try and we try again. Imagine trying to practice golf by reading about it in a book or by watching it on TV. You’ll never be able to hit the ball properly straight away.

You need to practice your swing over and over again until you get it right. Repetition works because you gradually rewire your brain and train it to adapt the new behaviour. Called ‘neuroplasticity’, the brain releases neurons to form new pathways in the brain. The more you practice, the stronger the pathways become and the more natural the behaviour becomes.

If you look back over your life, you will probably remember some amazing skills you learnt as a child, simply through experimentation. Those skills have stuck with you because you practiced until you mastered them. This is still the same technique you need to include in your training programs.

20% Learning from Others

The next key component of successful training programs involves working with others. Again, this is a natural human instinct, so by working with it, you build stronger outcomes.

On-the-job training is a great example of the way we learn from others. When you can ask questions exactly when you need answers, you can apply the learning straight away – this instant feedback helps to correct any errors before they become embedded in your mind.

Coaching and mentoring are great examples of ways you can learn from others. It’s information and guidance where and when you need it.

10% Formal Training

Most firms invest heavily in formal training. It seems like a good choice for many reasons – the whole team can be in the one place at the one time and receive the identical information.

Unfortunately, it is the least effective form of learning if it isn’t combined with the hands-on experience and learning from others.

The main issue with formal training is that it’s presented in a standard format, not tailored to the needs of each individual. It’s also information heavy, rather than hands-on. Even though there may be a component of ‘doing’ involved.

Finally, formal training often takes place away from where you use the skills you are learning. This means it blocks out many of the issues you need to manage. You might learn about the elements of swinging that golf club, but until you do it on the golf course, you won’t learn how to manage the trees, the birds, the weather and all the other things that can distract you from the task at hand.

Applying 70:20:10 to Your Training

Here are examples of each component you might need to build into your training processes:

Structured learning (10%) Learning from others (20%) Learning from experience (70%)
Collaboration Communities
Projects and assignments
Secondments or job-share
Problem solving

The three steps are each important to building a successful training experience for your team. While the 70:20:10 proportions are a guide, they aren’t set in stone. You can adapt them to suit the needs of your people and your subject.

However, don’t neglect any of the steps and always ensure your learning programs are practical and interactive. Make use of technology, particularly if you have remote teams. It’s a vital way to add the human component to distance education.

To achieve optimal performance and results from your training programs and your people, focus on the human angle and steer away from formal course presentation. You will find you have a far better ROI for your efforts.

About Linda Murray

Linda Murray is founder, speaker and Executive Coach at Athena Coaching. She is also the founder and trainer at Athena Leadership Academy, providing a tailored approach to workshops and training. Using the 70:20:10 approach, she ensures that your teams are engaged, motivated and achieve the best results for your business.